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Because they said it was true


Being a lover of good food I would naturally be inclined to want a taste of everything on the Sunday menu.

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Sunday lunch, when I was still a little boy, was more of an event than a simple meal. Sure there was food; at times lots of it, but that was not the only charm of the feast.

You see, on Sunday, wafting through the air, along with the smell of steaming rice, chicken curry, roast meat and roasted vegetables, there was also the smell of a sugary dessert. And a sweet, sugary dessert is what – to me anyway – made this meal the highlight of the week.

But, as with all romances, my love affair with pudding was not all smooth sailing. You see, being a lover of good food I would naturally be inclined to want a taste of everything on the Sunday menu.

So when the plates were cleared and the pudding bowls arranged on the table, my siblings and I would realise to our horror that we had gorged ourselves to such a degree that there was no place for even a spoonful of dessert! Those who say that our generation had it easy do not fully realise the horror that accompanies the realisation that you will have to skip dessert.

But there was a solution. “Run around the table a few times,” the adults would say. “It will settle your food.”

And without a moment’s hesitation we’d be off, jogging around the lunch table – three or four times – “settling our food”. If it was a baked pudding we’d run faster!

Miraculously, when we sat down there was place for the pudding and I’d scoff down my sugary dessert after my stint around the table.

Decades later I read some notes by a health reformer from the late 1800s whose writings have even impressed modern physicians.

She wrote about exercise and digestion. “Exercise will aid the work of digestion,” she wrote. “To walk out after a meal, hold the head erect, put back the shoulders, and exercise moderately, will be a great benefit. The mind will be diverted from self to the beauties of nature.” Then she adds: “The less the attention is called to the stomach after a meal, the better.”

See? So we were right to run around the table.

However, in the sentence preceding that good advice, the same health reformer wrote: “To engage in violent exercise immediately after eating, hinders the digestive process; for the vitality of the system, which is needed to carry on the work of digestion, is called away to other parts (of the body).”

Here’s my point; about a week ago a video clip was circulated on social media. Two Eastern Cape traffic officers demonstrated the fact that eating a hot cross bun and taking a breathalyser test would put you way over the legal limit.

South Africa panicked, the video went viral, and sales of hot cross buns would have plummeted were it not for the skinflints who decided that a dozen buns were cheaper than a case of beer. Also, hot cross bun shooters were served in pubs all over the country.

However, what people didn’t know is that the video clip was part of a longer video meant to demonstrate that while the mixture of yeast, sugar and raisins would produce alcohol on the breath immediately after eating the buns, just a minute later the breathalyser did not register. The panic-mongers only circulated part of the story; and we all know how a sensational story can spread like wildfire.

Taken out of context anything can cause a sensation, or panic.

Running around a table to digest my food was probably doing more harm than good, even though I trusted the adults as a reliable source. Just like reacting to sensational stories can also do harm.

Seeing is believing they say. But I keep reminding myself that before we can believe we have to look at the big picture in its full context.

It’s always better to feast on the entire story instead of little selected mouthfuls that may lead to your imagination running around without all the facts.

After all, as someone once said, “A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”